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Thursday, 20 September 1973
Page: 1394

Mr VINER (Stirling) - It is always amazing to see the sensitivity of a person in his own self-righteousness; certainly we have observed that from the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) and the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes). It is always intriguing to hear repeated over and over again from the benches opposite the claim that the honourable members there are the only ones who have any concern for the union movement, union officials or union members.

In law there are 2 old principles which can well stand application in this case. In an endeavour to bring some sense to honourable members opposite, I invite the Committee to look at those 2 principles. The first one is that when an amendment is being made to an Act one should look to see what is the mischief intended to be remedied by the amendment introduced. I have not heard from the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron), who is at the table, what is the mischief that requires an amendment of this kind in order to bring about industrial peace. I have not heard from the honourable member for Melbourne, who also is the President of the Victorian branch of the Australian Labor Party and an ex-member of the Electrical Trades Union, what mischief is intended to be remedied by this amendment. Nobody opposite has told me. Nobody opposite has told the Committee. The second very good principle that I am sure all members of the public will understand and respect is what has been referred to by my colleage, the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen); that is, the onus of proof or the burden of proof. It is referred to in glowing terms within the law as the 'golden thread' - he who seeks to prosecute, he who seeks to affirm a proposition, must establish it; he has the burden upon himself.

Looking at the amendment that has been moved by the Opposition, I ask: What does it say, in very simple terms? Let the Committee be quite clear about this. It provides that an employer shall not dismiss an employee, injure him in his employment or alter his position to his prejudice by reason of the circumstance that the employee, being an officer, delegate or member of an organisation, has done an act which is lawful in an industrial establishment. Now, who can complain about that as a proposition coming from this side of the Committee? Many aspersions, in all the selfrighteousness of members of the Government Party, have been cast upon us. But who can deny the good sense of the proposition which states that an employer shall not dismiss or cause injury to an employee, being an officer, delegate or member of an organisation, who enters an establishment for a lawful purpose? There is nothing wrong with that provision, as I see it. So, what is the Government complaining about? We simply add one rider to this provision; that is, that the entry into the industrial establishment must be in accordance with the rules of the organisation and with an authority granted to the particular person. Again, I cannot see anything wrong with that requirement. Why does the Government cavil at it?

As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) has pointed out, one aspect that we on this side of the chamber criticise very strongly is that, under the Minister's proposal, even if a union officer, delegate or member breaks his contract of employment that person cannot be dismissed from his employment. Now, is it right and proper that a breach of a contract of employment should not authorise an employer to dismiss an employee? I should like to hear from the Government why that proposition is not sound. What is the mischief intended to be remedied by the Government's Bill? Why is the onus cast upon the employer to prove that the Act was unlawful? Why should not an employee, if he has been dismissed or injured in his employment, establish that what he was doing was lawful, was in the interests of the organisation to which he belonged and was within the authority granted to him? I think we are indebted to the honourable member for

Moreton for showing that we have a political Fred Astaire in the Parliament by drawing to the attention of the House the proposition so soundly expressed by the Minister back in the early 1950s when he was loudly applauding the onus of proof being where it ought to be.

That reminds me of another proposition of the Minister that under the Opposition's amendment an official could not go into an establishment even where there had been a complaint about safety, and a strike could not be called on because of some safety issue. Apparently the Minister, in all his historical understanding of the union movement, has not heard of Henry Dournes Higgins. One thing that Mr Justice Higgins, as he became, asserted quite clearly on behalf of the union movement was that if there is a right to strike certainly it is a right to strike over a safety issue. For the last 70-odd years not one union in the land has not asserted that right with equal force, and it has always been upheld. So it is no good for the Minister to come into the Parliament and try to use that as an argument to justify the amendment that he proposes. Nothing that the Government has said has invalidated any proposition from this side of the chamber. Nothing that has been said has shown that what the Opposition proposes is an attack upon unions or an attack upon officials of unions or members of unions. If they are doing something lawful, if they are doing it in the interests of their organisation, if they have the authority of their organisation, there is nothing that they need fear because the Act, by the amendment proposed, protects them from dismissal, protects them from injury in their employment and protects them from being prejudiced. That is the intent of the amendment and that is what we ask this Committee to accept.

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